Raymundo Ocampo is passionate about the plants he's nurtured at the 80-acre Westward Look Resort in Tucson over the past 24 years.
The grounds manager and his small crew have created a pleasing palette with dark green shade trees that keep buildings cool, bright flowers and trickles of water that attract hummingbirds and butterflies, plus contrasting open areas with serene stands of sculptural cacti.
A native of Oaxaca, Mexico, Ocampo worked a year in the resort's kitchen before transferring to landscaping. He immediately contacted UACE to learn everything he could about this desert environment. "For 24 years I've been getting knowledge from them," he said. "I wanted to learn the basics of agriculture – and learn more about the native species."
Ocampo learned his xeriscape lessons well. He now teaches the Spanish-language SmartScape workshops for UACE. He covers two of the nine topics in this 18-hour certification program for landscape professionals. "I wanted to help out. This is like pay-back time," he said. "I love sharing what I've learned."
And share he does.
Ocampo has sent many landscapers to complete the SmartScape program and often presents program highlights to resort guests eager to learn about the diversity of plants that thrive here.
Ocampo and his crew of three care for the entire 80-acre property. That's down from a crew of nine a few years ago. That's partly the economy – but a lot has to do with the low-water landscape upgrades.
"It's cleaner, brighter and easier to maintain," Ocampo said. "I receive so many compliments."